The Spanish Language Disinformation Coalition (SLDC), comprised of civil rights, Latinx leadership, and consumer advocacy organizations, sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), thanking the agency for its plans to initiate a new rulemaking to protect Latinx consumers and prevent unfair and deceptive practices by online platforms.
The SLDC commended the FTC for moving forward with its initiative to “curb lax security practices, limit privacy abuses, and ensure that algorithmic decision-making does not result in unlawful discrimination,” as the proposed rulemaking reads.
The SLDC developed its principles following the Change the Terms model for guiding platforms on how to enforce their own policies to prevent the spread of disinformation and hateful activities.
According to the Change the Terms portal, while a free and open internet creates immense social value, it can also be used to engage in hateful activities on a large scale, such as organizations inciting hate using online platforms to fund and recruit supporters to normalize racism, sexism, xenophobia, religious bigotry, homophobia, and transphobia, among others.
Such behavior “chills the online speech of the targeted groups, curbs democratic participation, and threatens people’s safety and freedom in real life,” Change the Terms states.
The SLDC wrote that the use of disinformation, hateful content, extremism, calls for violence, conspiracy theories, and other harmful content to enhance engagement, as well as the use of selective advertising in a discriminatory fashion —all for financial gain— often targets the Spanish-speaking community, directly impacting its civil and economic opportunities. In its letter, the SLDC asks the FTC to advance on creating rules to protect this particular community from fraud, scams, and abusive data practices.
“The targeting of the Latin community demonstrates the need for FTC rules protecting people from fraud, scams and abusive data practices,” the letter reads.
The SLDC stressed that, unlike the progress shown for content in English, harmful and fraudulent content in Spanish sometimes stays online for months —despite being flagged— and that the failure to remove such content not only harms individuals and communities that speak Spanish, but also highlights the disparity in how content in languages other than English is monitored by internet platforms.
“Online entities’ failure to comply with their own stated policies, guidelines, and terms of service is a deceptive practice in any case, and when it results in failure to remove harmful and fraudulent content and claims in languages other than English that deceptive practice specially harms the individuals and communities that speak those languages,” the group said.
The SLDC also asked the FTC to use this opportunity to minimize the collection, use, and sharing of Latinx and Spanish speakers’ behavioral and demographic data and establish clear rules to prevent discriminatory and harmful data practices against these communities.
The letter was signed by Florida Watch, Free Press, Fundamedios, Global Project Against, Hate and Extremism Hispanics in Philanthropy, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, and the New York University Cybersecurity for Democracy.
Juan de Dios Sánchez Jurado is a summer correspondent for Futuro Media. A writer, lawyer, and journalist from Colombia, he is currently studying at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York.